As Gulitti stated on his blog, the NHL and NHLPA could still reach an agreement to have the season start on November 2nd, meaning Volchenkov could miss the first two months of the adjusted 2012-2013 campaign. If the injury takes the full six weeks to heal, which is likely for the 30-year-old defenseman, Volchenkov would be fully recovered by December 3.
If the lockout does end while Volchenkov is recovering, the Devils may suspend him without pay until he is healthy to play. In the meantime, Volchenkov would miss 14 regularly scheduled games plus any game that the NHL adds to make up for the matchups lost in October.
This is a huge loss for the Devils as Volchenkov has become one of the more physical defensemen on the roster. He led the team and was 43rd in the league with 177 hits last season, and his plus-three rating is the second-best amongst returning Devils defensemen.
As for the rest of the team, New Jersey should be able to survive without Volchenkov for the first month. Although losing Volchenkov makes the Devils a less physical unit, they still have the depth necessary to recover from losing a top defenseman.
New Jersey will likely have Bryce Salvador, Adam Larsson, Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Henrik Tallinder and Peter Harrold in the starting lineup whenever the season begins, giving the Devils six quality defensemen who all have at least one season and one game of playoff experience under their belts.
Zidlicky, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, will be expected to play at the same level that he played at during the end of the last season and in 2012 NHL playoffs. He had eight points in just 22 games during the regular season and added another nine points in 24 games during the postseason, making him one of the team's better offensive options at the blue line.
Larsson, who was the odd man out during the playoffs, will not only return to the starting lineup but will likely see additional ice time in the top four. Larsson can potentially add another offensive weapon at the defensive position, something New Jersey will need now that Zach Parise's 30 goals are gone.
Peter Harrold will reprise his role as the sixth defenseman, something that he earned after playing a majority of the Devils' Stanley Cup run. If he can play anywhere near the level he performed at toward the end of the year, he could turn out to be another nice surprise for the Devils lineup.
Nobody in the lineup can replace the physical presence of Volchenkov, but this team has the talent to get by without him while the ankle heals. New Jersey has enough veteran leadership on the blue line to replace one player, and it's also nice to have the fourth overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft in their top six.
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